Common Sense vs. E- Everything

105

When then 15-year-old Greta Thunberg gave a face and a voice to the Fridays For Future movement in August of 2018, climate change was already a passionately discussed topic around the globe. What followed as the global movement gained momentum can be described as a historical miracle of modern times.

Rarely in history have so many people been triggered into instant and far-reaching action-ism and rarely ever did politicians get handed a larger pile of homework assignments. Rescue the planet and humanity! With some rigor and velocity, the world’s attention fell on CO2 and consequently upon the propulsion systems of personal and mass transportation devices we know as automobiles and, of course, airplanes. By the time the term “Flight Shaming” appeared, I knew we were on the way to finding E (for electricity) in just about everything and enroute to deep trouble.
 
As a person deeply engaged in and passionate about GA and particularly seaplanes, I saw some stormy clouds ahead, wondering if and how we could finally break free of avgas-guzzling Lycomings and Continentals. News about Harbour Air’s recent first flight with what I call the E-Beaver has been filling my inbox for more than three weeks now and as a seaplane guy, I am surprised to see so much excitement over this five-minute flight.

I expected less of a freak-wave after seeing the Equator’s P2 Excursion create nowhere near such a Tsunami within the industry and international press. Equator Aircraft has been working on this concept since 2010, with its head of company having to navigate hell and high water to bring the idea across and to find funding for what was, way back then, just an outlandish idea. Its hardly the first E-Plane to grace our sky. I had my Eureka moment, though: When money is no issue, things develop rapidly and the general news media jumps on it like a mouse jumps on cheese. And rapid development is no stranger to GA. 

Even though I suffered the bias that mixing electricity with water was unattractive, I also learned that closed circuits between motors and batteries are one solution. There is no ground wire attached to the airframe. Meanwhile, upsetting an electrically powered aircraft in water appears to be not much of an issue, either. Large bodies of water will simply absorb the short. No shaking bodies, no smoke puffs being emitted from ears, nose and mouth after impacting water. Beside the questions and biases we all face—some more, some less—people who still remain critical of E-Mobility are often accused of being bullies or at odds with young people, autism, girls in general or any narrative fitting a convenient mixture. Yet, many of my own questions remain unanswered. Here’s just five of them:

(1) Where do we get the lithium for these batteries and at what environmental and human expense? (2) Can we shoot non-recyclable batteries into outer space, when we finally discover that they present a huge waste problem? (3) Will we be capable of paying constantly increasing electricity bills, when energy companies completely switch off coal and nuclear powerplants and revert to water, wind and sunshine for the alternative? Green energy is rather expensive in Europe and prices are hiking quarterly.

(4) Will temperatures fall measurably by banning gasoline and fossil-fuel burning engines from primarily personal transportation, while completely ignoring much larger environmental abuses? (5) Where will we find work for millions of people displaced from their source of income when and if this E-hype continues? Bonus: Will all of these measures and actions make a measurable difference for the climate on planet earth, if we all comply with the new recipe book? Fact check: Europeans currently send diesels to Africa by the oil-powered shipload. Diesels are treated like a pest here, which is not really a factor, because these will now continue to run outside the environment.

Electrifying everything, from rollers to strollers, mopeds, motorcycles, cars and now airplanes appears to be the chosen path for most of us developed people. Maybe it was just a matter of time until someone within the smallest and probably most mass-transportation-insignificant sector of aviation (seaplanes) would jump on this popularity train and assure them that “we” are listening and developing solutions. Harbour Air did it. They converted a fire-breathing Frankenstein Machine into an electric airplane. As a proof of concept, it’s quite a feat, but not much more, I’m afraid. Was history written? Some. I think commercial feasibility is about a light-year or two away. 

The cost and effort to convert an existing fleet of aircraft to electric isn’t peanuts. Profit is what matters more than anything in commercial aviation. Let’s be optimistic and let the crystal ball say that 15 years from now, a fully loaded E-Beaver will carry four to six people for a 15- to 20-minute flight, before swapping a several-hundred-pound empty battery for a fully charged one. That alone seems to represent a logistical nightmare.

Today’s battery technology is still scary if we turn our attention to the pictures of recent Tesla fires or examine the e-fusion’s point of impact. There was not a single drop of combustible fuel on board. The thermo-chemical reaction of a runaway battery is my biggest concern with electric aircraft. These packs react to punctures, deformation, leakage and an array of other malfunctions and shorts and they sincerely dislike the wrong temperatures.
 
My thought is that it would be better to engage the challenges ahead critically and realistically. We need to acknowledge that we have homework to do for a cleaner environment, but that electric motors and four-hour cruise-range batteries seem futuristic.

We should not stay asleep on the E-concept, but we should also avoid raising expectations in people that getting this thing off the water will be quick, cheap or simple.

The hype around this E-Beaver certainly isn’t helping our generally ill-perceived general and business aviation industry. The press makes it look bigger and more beautiful than it actually is. We are nowhere close to having commercially viable, profitable or even remotely usable systems in place to even whisper about playing our part in protecting the environment with anything powered by electricity. We could do a ton by looking into synthetic diesel fuel, lowering CO2 emissions by large margins almost instantly, if given proper government attention and support. Something is better than nothing, my grandmother used to tell me, when I turned down the small piece of chocolate, holding our for a bigger piece later.   

I hope there will be an audience cheering us on when we are finally forced to admit that too much, too quick is no better than too little, too late. I’ll go out on a limb and state my suspicion that two or three complete generations of pilots will have to come and go before we see currently leaded avgas aircraft powered by electricity. In our currently deflationary and declining industry, I wonder how many with a real urge to fly flying vehicles around in ADS-B corridors full of instant delivery drones for the fun of it we’ll be able to mobilize. 

Jason Baker is based in Germany. He operates Seaplanemagazine.com

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105 COMMENTS

  1. Reliance upon the unavailable isn’t engineering. It’s religion.
    Or as my Irish grandmother used to say, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

    Hope for it; wish for it; work toward it. Even pray for it. But don’t rely upon it.
    As for governments, perhaps they should just repeal the Law of Gravity. That would help.
    And the doubters/deniers? How DARE they?!

    • Global climate is a sciences that involves geology, physics, orbital mechanics, statistical analysis, chemistry, etc, etc. A “movement” that is represented by an uneducated, tantrum throwing adolescent is lost.

    • “Reliance upon the unavailable isn’t engineering. It’s religion.”
      He says, while E-HANG drones carry passengers in China, Pipistrel is selling electric trainers, and an e-Beaver is test-flying a commuter route.

      …And Teslas are destroying ALL gas-burning cars in safety and performance.

      • This and everything that follows from Austin is spoken like a true believer. How come EM is making rockets with chemical engines instead of electric airplanes? The disconnect between short hops to Starbucks and distance travel seems to have eluded him. We may eventually get there but it won’t be with lithium ion batteries from Tesla or anyone else.

        • Yes, it is indeed true that some forms of propulsion can not be done with batteries and electricity. But the fact that Elon is building rockets that use hydrocarbons has nothing to do with the fact that short-range, atmospheric flight can be done with batteries.

          • Just as long as it is very short range with no significant load and no concerns for turn around times. There is a big difference between a Volacopter moving two people across town and a Cessna 185 or Beaver flying delivery hops in, well, about anywhere.

      • The Harbor Air e-seaplane can fly its normal scheduled route using off the shelf batteries. At least, that’s what Greg told me. With better aviation-grade batteries, he can make that same trip (60 miles/100 km) with a payload. There is a battery company that reached 500 kWh/kg commercialized in two years. They are working on 600. I’m not sure it’s public yet.

        As far as waste, well-to-wheel and wings in our case is hard to compare since we have hundreds of thousands of petroleum and “natural” gas mining operations that are not the most efficient going into thermal engines that 33% efficient. It will take a few more years to get the data.

        Landing gears, according to all companies I spoke is a non-issue at this stage. Ampaire’s Cessna 337 can handle the extra load. Of course, we’re not at a 737 size conversion yet, and thankfully according to the news.

        But in many of our “enthusiasts” cases, Greta is a non-issue and a moot one. She’s part of mainstream media and we’re specialized media. Two different worlds. I like efficiency and come from a Bugatti/Alfa Romeo/Maserati world. When I drove a Tesla Roadster, I got it. It’s a fun little car with plenty of oomph and cost single digit pennies to operate compared to double digits for a good performance gas car.

        I see electric mobility the way I love beer. One is an IPA, the other a lager. It’s still beer in the end. It’s like red wine to white wine, French cheese to Dutch cheese.

        I welcome thinking outside the box. I don’t live in a world of absolutes and certainly, no one in the e-aviation world should say it’s perfect, but it’s getting much better. In the meantime, things move on.

        eHang already flies people and these guys operate in a bubble without much help from outside. If they can do that, imagine what else is happening in the e-aviation world. I should write an article on how many engineers, scientists, C-level folks who have left OEMs for startups, bringing along their IPs.

  2. One of the first things that came to mind when I read about battery-powered aircraft is that they don’t lose weight during the flight. I’ve read that an airliner flying from Toronto to the U.K. uses half of its fuel to reach its cruising altitude and the rest to cross the Atlantic. A battery weighs the same whether it’s fully charged or “empty”. That means its landing weight is the same as its takeoff weight, which in turns means it will need a stronger airframe and landing gear to withstand the higher impact forces (unless every pilot of an e-plane can achieve a 100% rate of greasing it in).

    This does not mean that e-planes cannot be made, or be practical, but it’s something that’s rarely mentioned in any discussion of their pros, cons, and potential. I think it should be.

  3. And what of creature comforts in flight? Are the people flying the e-Beaver gonna be issued extra coats because there’s no heat available to keep them comfortable? And with that e-Airliner the Finns want to build … what’s going to provide that PLUS pressurization? And if they try to tell me that they’ll just fly lower .. that means the airplane will be down in the weather and turbulence. Different than cars, there are too many things that an airplane must be able to provide to make the notion viable today. Even the idea of a hybrid propulsion system is borderline ridiculous. Now you’re carrying batteries, controllers, motors, an engine, fuel and other ancillary systems. All that weight is a penalty for the notion.

    Electric cars could potentially be viable given that most trips are short. I could see designing something like an electric “Volks” car system where different bodies could be placed upon a common chassis. Such cars could be used in urban environments as a portion of the transportation network. But there’s another problem. In The Villages of Florida, there are something like 75 miles of golf car trails. Hoards of golf cars move about there. If you walk into a golf car shop and ask them which variety of golf car are mostly used … the answer is gas. So even there people there reject the electric golf car idea.

    Finally, imagine a magical world where you can push a button and everything runs on electrons. There isn’t sufficient electrical generation capacity in this Country to supply all those machines. Unless and until nuclear energy is the source of electric, ain’t gonna work. SO … sorry … this preoccupation is nothing more than a curiosity that might work in very limited subsets of the Society.

    • “Unless and until nuclear energy is the source of electric, ain’t gonna work”

      He says, to a guy that lives in South Carolina which is the most nuclear-power state in the Country, and who charges his Tesla overnight and only goes to gas stations for coffee, so has experienced it working perfectly every day for years.

      • Nuclear energy is the only viable baseline generation technology on the horizon. Pressurized water reactors will continue to be plagued by the compromises that made them ideal for powering submarines and dangerously unsuitable for anything else. Alternative fail-safe reactor technologies are being revived or developed anew to replace PWRs as they are retired.

        This will be a real test for the environmental movement. Can it compromise on nuclear power, or will it cling to ideology and become indistinguishable from the climate deniers.

  4. JaBa … have you heard of THIS contraption being made out of a C337 over in France?

    voltaero.aero/en/feature-stories/voltaero-advances-its-cassio-aircraft-toward-the-goal-of-hybrid-electric-flight-at-200-kts-with-nearly-800-hp-for-propulsion/

    The thing hasn’t yet flown yet the Europeans are already giving them trophys !! (sic AND sigh)

    voltaero.aero/en/press-releases/voltaero-trophy-future-award/

    Is there something wrong with the water over in Europe ??

    • Yup. I have been watching this project for a while. I’ll continue to follow it. Commenting on issues with the water or peoples mental status in regards to climate change is most easily described as a “stupid move at the wrong time…” I’ll quote Bartleby on this one. 😉

  5. My impression is that nearly all discussions of electric propulsion omit the fundamental problems of physics that limit the whole enterprise: the energy density of batteries.

    Of the three obstacles standing in the way of electric propulsion (energy storage, efficient electric motors, motor controllers) two have been solved. Small, lightweight, three-phase electric motors now operate in the high-90% efficiency range. Light, powerful motor controllers which not only provide throttling but generate from DC sources like batteries the three-phase AC power the motors need? Done.

    What will be very hard to overcome is the basic physics that currently gives internal combustion engines a tremendous advantage. Firstly, gasoline is extremely energy-dense. (Which has more energy, a pound of gasoline or a pound of TNT? Gasoline – by a factor of about 15:1). Secondly, of the reactants that generate energy, the airplane only has to carry about 1/15th – by WEIGHT. At a mixture of about 15:1, for every pound of gasoline burned, fifteen pounds of oxygen are pulled out of ambient air, and then the exhausted gasses (sixteen pounds of them) are simply dumped back into the atmosphere. And as we all know, weight is the nemesis of the airplane.

    Batteries, on the other hand, must carry everything necessary to store every kW-hour of energy required for a given flight. Lithium and other lightweight materials aside, it is going to be very difficult to overcome that deficit. Probably the best hope is some form of the hydrogen fuel cell, which – like internal combustion engines – also uses atmospheric oxygen. Failing this or some other major breakthrough, though, don’t hold your breath; electric propulsion on a scale equal to burning hydrocarbons ain’t coming any time soon.

    • SOOO TRUE!
      BUUUUT, there is something you forgot!
      E-airplanes don’t have to be on the scale of gas-airplanes to WORK.
      The Beaver quoted in this article? It runs 20-minute ferry flights. Batteries are fine for this.
      Traffic in LA is so bad people will rent S-76s to get across it! (Too soon? Don’t care).
      Imagine zero emissions, zero-runway (zero-PILOT :-O ) airplanes to get you OVER the traffic.
      Low energy density in batteries?
      WHO CARES????
      We’re only trying to get from KLAX to downtown LA in 5 minutes without getting stuck in traffic!

      Is there a biz case for this?
      Hmm… only if people in LA LOVE BEING STUCK IN TRAFFIC!
      Sooooo… ask them.

      • “Imagine zero emissions, zero-runway (zero-PILOT :-O ) airplanes to get you OVER the traffic.”

        No, it simply expands LA traffic up into the air! If you hate being stuck in traffic, just imaging doing a hold for traffic in the air and then you remember that your “20 minutes is just fine” battery meter is counting down toward zero…

  6. Baby steps.
    We didn’t from the Wright brother’s first flight to the 787 in a few years. We didn’t go from the Motorolla brick to the iPhone 11 overnight. To quote one of my favorite TV shows from the past, “Patients Grasshopper”. The industry is in the very earliest stages of electric aircraft development, give it time. Research the battery technologies that are in the lab now, as the NiCad and lithium-ion were at one time, you will see the technology is coming.
    We are all poisoned somewhat by the modern affliction of Instant Gratification Syndrome. A very late 20th century syndrome BTW.

    • Instant Gratification Syndrome has been around forever. Substance abuse has commonly been its pervasive Extra Added Attraction. Yes, IGS has become something of a norm since the late 20th century, maybe due to the media getting so many people to adopt a craving for the latest and greatest. In other words, the e-frenzy is fuelled by an only-slightly different flavor of consumerism.

      • That’s a very definitive statement.
        Please show your research as extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
        But not to worry you are in good company with that naysayer attitude.
        Kind of like at the dawn of aviation.

        I can state flatly that heavier than air flying machines are impossible.
        — Lord Kelvin, 1895

        It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere.
        — Thomas Edison, November 1895

        The present generation will not [fly in the next century], and no practical engineer would devote himself to the problem now.
        — Worby Beaumont, January 1900

        Flight by machines heavier than air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.
        — Simon Newcomb, 1902

        The aeroplane will never fly.
        — Lord Haldane, 1907

        I will also add I read a quote from the dawn of the jet age but I can’t find it at the moment. “due to the jet engine’s lack of efficiency will never bbe used for transatlantic flight”.
        As you are aware nonstop 18 hour flights on two engines is the norm today.

      • The energy density of gasoline is about 45 MJ/kg. Assuming 35% efficiency of a combustion engine, that provides about 16 MJ of usefully converted energy per kg.
        Li-Ion batteries contain less than 2 MJ/kg…. but

        Li-S chemistry has a theoretical density of about 9 MJ/kg.
        Al-air fuel cells have a theoretical density of almost 22 MJ/kg.
        Li-Air chemistry has a theoretical density of about 40 MJ/kg.

        These chemistries are in the lab. And before YARS chimes in with some comment about faith or unobtainium, there is no guarantee that these will come out of the lab with these densities or that they’ll come out of the lab at all in a commercially viable way, but to state in absolute terms that no amount of research could make any of these a success…

        oh and hydrogen cells have densities over 100 MJ/kg,
        and fusion is almost 600,000,000 MJ/kg.

        • “…there is no guarantee that these will come out of the lab with these densities or that they’ll come out of the lab at all in a commercially viable way…”
          Well said, Matt. We seem to be in violent agreement.
          Good things may or may not come. I hope that they do. But good engineers do not RELY upon the future delivery of the currently unavailable. THAT would be faith.

  7. If the Wright brothers and others had followed the approach being advocated here — don’t try to develop a new technology because there are unsolved engineering problems and the path to commercial viability is not clear — we’d all still be stuck on the ground, and I think it’s safe to say avweb would not exist.

    • Les:
      I don’t see many denizens asserting that development efforts should be eschewed. I see reasonable arguments that RELYING upon future developments – as though they are a certainty – is an act of faith.

    • And imagine if the Wright Brother had wanted to use FUSION!!! We would net even be FLYING AT ALL!
      Crawling around on the ground, we would be!
      Preach it, brother! Your point is so relevant and accurate!
      WHOAAAAA… and what if theWright Brothers had wanted to use ANTI-MATTER to fly???
      Then we would still be on horse-back for sure!!!!!
      YEP, you have totally convinced me that anti-matter and fusion are frauds, no doubt about it!!!
      After all, if the Write Brothers had used those power sources, we wouldn’t even by flying!
      TOTALLY LOGICAL ARGUMENT AGAINST THE POWER SOURCE! OH YAH!!!!!!!!!!

  8. How can a fellow airman be so devoid of common sense, be so alienated? Our colleague wants THREE more generations of pilots flying merrily around, with LEADED avgas.

    How can that be? What makes human neurons be so cognitively dysfunctional?

    Unreal. Frightening.

  9. Jason – although I agree with some of your points, and particularly the technical/battery barriers, you undermine your argument by including red herrings that are simply not part of the problem when you complain about the price of “green” electricity. As a source of motive power, electricity is SO cheap compared to avgas that the moment someone solves the battery problem – or gives me a long enough power cord (!) – switching would be a no-brainer.

    • Andy, lets remain overly optimistic. I think power cords are still being optimized. Reminds me of the control line days. We could all fly circular routes. The length of the cable determines how far we get. No more midairs, no more pilots – NTSB will then be reporting about “tangle-ups”.

      • By-the-way, the E-aircraft only need the extension cord for takeoff phase. Then it unplugs itself and runs on battery power in cruise flight.

        Don’t forget the ‘Space Elevator’ it uses electric cords also.

        Haven’t you been watching The Great Elon’s company TLSA stock this year?? Greta is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, what else do you need to know?
        Jason, your reply may be considered Global Climate Blasphemy! This is not a joking matter…

  10. At least the E-airplane fad is, by and large, not being conducted with taxpayer funding.

    If I ran the zoo we’d be heavy into new & better nuclear generation and a 30 year plan for a nationwide electrified & expanded rail system, integrated with distribution grid investment. For mobile power, ground vehicles can carry the R&D burden and come up with the “breakthroughs” everyone so confidently predicts. Electric airplanes would be the very last sector on my path to full changeover.

    Make it so.

      • Agree 100%, popular long-distance passenger rail would depend on blue-sky solutions like vacuum tubes (and not 6L6’s … old electronics guy joke). My primary support for electric rail is in fact based on increased “greeness” for bulk cargo distribution, replacing current Diesel trains plus greatly reducing the existing need for long-distance trucking.

        Short-medium range fast interurban and commuter suburban would be a bonus, but to do it right really requires a entirely separate track system incorporating all the necessary pick-up / drop-off stations. Plus, for commuting, the need for long-term readjustment of current road-spawned urban sprawl.

        Eliminating fossil fueled high-speed long distance air transport, which seems to be where some people’s thoughts are headed, is far in the future, if ever.

  11. Keep in mind one important fact about this particular airline, Harbour Air: “The majority of Harbour Air’s flights are less than 25 minutes in length”. Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-11/harbour-air-s-electric-aircraft-flight-heralds-fossil-free-flight , plus personal knowledge.

    Thus this airline only needs a battery capacity sufficient for that duration plus reserves, with adequate useful load, and they have a useful airplane. They don’t need battery capacity to cross the Pacific Ocean.

    As Kevin R. said above, “baby steps”.

  12. The lengths that this author goes to to deny reality are simply stunning.
    Each logical fallacy is more absurd than the last.
    He literally gets to the point, LITERALLY, that he needs to shoot batteries INTO SPACE (rather than recycle or recharge them), for e-anything to make sense in his tiny, atrophied brain.
    He LITERALLY makes the argument that workers will be displaced from the fossil fuel industry… while completely forgetting about the employment growth in e-everything that will offset it.
    He pretends than an airplane has to fly “four hours” to be useful, despite the absurdity of this statement given the plethora of short-range hops that can still be useful. People are stuck in traffic getting FROM ONE SIDE OF THE CITY TO THE OTHER.. with hundreds of roof-tops available if only a 3-D mode of transportation to move about the city existed… geee if only we could imagine a vehicle that could cover intra-city distances without making pollution….
    He has literally taken hours out of his day to spin up a series of logical fallacies as pitiful defenses of his ancient prejudices. This article is a perfect display of the absurd lengths people of locked-in brains will go to to avoid changing their minds.

    This is the kind of cave-man that was saying “TESLA? THEY’LL NEVER MAKE IT, I TELL YOU! MY GRAND-PA SAYS >REAL< CARS BURN GAS!"

    • And the excuse for the insanity is now given: “Blogs are opinion pieces”
      So here’s Jason Baker: Spew fallacy after fallacy after fallacy, to the point that he is pretending that used batteries need to be SHOT INTO SPACE… and when his idiocy is called out, say “Oh this was just an OPINION piece”.

      So, of course, the facts don’t matter.

      When we look for the source of the logical fallacies, the misleading statements, the denial of reality, the poison the public discourse in the quest for agenda or clicks…. we find Jason Baker, here, in this article, at AvWeb, spewing all of the above, and saying he can do it because “It’s just his opinion”.

  13. Clearly, you’ve been triggered.
    This whole hysteria is based upon a falsehood. Co2 is not a pollutant. Ask a tree. Photosynthesis is the engine of life on earth. CO2 is a feedstock for photosynthesis. The earth orbits between two planets with CO2 atmospheres. Very likely early earth had the same until the plant life ate it up and filled the skies with oxygen. It’s a trace gas now. What are they living on? Peak life on earth probably occurred during the carboniferous era when CO2 levels were much higher. Be glad that we still have fire. It limits oxygen concentration and feeds the plants. If you want to worry about something watch for falling oxygen levels.
    The earth’s temperature will take care of itself. We won’t be changing it.

    • CO2 is a pollutant to humans. Try breathing only CO2. And O2 is a pollutant to plants. Fortunately, the waste gas of one (CO2 from humans) is the life gas of another (plants), and vice versa. But too much of a good thing is bad, especially when humans are cutting down trees faster than they can grow.

      But the focus on just CO2 and its effect (or not) on global temperatures is missing the point. 1) At some point, we will eventually run out of oil; there can only be a finite amount of it, when it takes millions of years to be produced. But even more than that is 2) look at China and India and the smog issues they have, and the smog issues that CA used to have. It has been proven to cause health issues. But the same thing that reduces CO2 emissions also happens to reduce smog, which is an immediate concern.

      So whether you being in global climate change being affected by human behavior or not, there are some things that are definitely caused by human behavior that have an immediate impact on human health. And doing what we can to reduce the immediate impacts often also has the effect of reducing other potential long-term effects. So really, there’s no reason to argue against trying to find new means of propulsion as long as it is phased in over time as it advances.

      • “There’s no reason to argue against TRYING…” Amen, my New England brother.
        However, there’s ample reason to resist being COMPELLED to abandon what works, in an effort to implement what TODAY does not. And which never may work.
        No faith-inspired legislation. Please.

    • Wrong.
      More logical fallacies as feeble attempts to bolster your pre-existing brain-lock.

      Logical fallacy: false-equivalency:
      You say trees eat CO2.
      And maggots love dog-poo… that doesn’t mean you want more of it on your lawn.
      The fact they trees eat CO2 does not mean that it does not warm the Earth.
      One fact does not connect the other.
      Trees eat CO2, and CO2 warms the Earth. Both statements are true, and neither causes the other to be false. CO2 high in the atmosphere traps heat whether trees are eating it at sea level or not.

      Logical fallacy: irrelevant:
      You say “The earth orbits between two planets with CO2 atmospheres”. The atmospheres of Venus and Mars are not relevant to the global warming situation on Earth, because, umm… space.

      Logical fallacy: Mis-statement of the problem:
      You say “Peak life on earth probably occurred during the carboniferous era when CO2 levels were much higher.” You make up a vague term called “peak life” and guess it happened when there was more CO2. Much like the spaghetti monster, this may in fact be correct… but has nothing to do with the fact that we don’t want to lose Venice, New York, Florida, and countless other coastal cities and landscapes, thus causing crowding and e-forestation on Earth which will lower the quality of life for all. I have a suspicion there are more people on Earth now than there were in the Carboniferous period… just a guess!

    • “ The earth orbits between two planets with CO2 atmospheres. ”

      True. But one of those planets, Venus, is the figurative poster-child of the runaway greenhouse effect. No worry about coastal flooding there, though – with surface temperatures of 900F, there’s no liquid water to flood anything. Now THAT’S global warming.

  14. Viable electric flight is coming. It will just take a while. In my 2018 keynote address at the Sustainable Aviation Symposium, I gave an overview of what was physically possible with today’s batteries and those in the foreseeable future. (see https://www.davidullman.com/aeronautics for a full video of the talk and the slides). The 200+ projects aimed at VTOL airtaxis will rapidly filter down to what is realistically possible now – very few surviving vendors making short flights. The eBeaver effort is just what it claims to be, an early effort for very short commercial flights. Alice wont be able to do what has been promised to investors – at least not for a number of years.

    To not believe that electric flight is in our future is foolish. To expect too much too soon is similarly so. A lot of effort and much promising work is being put into battery and aircraft development. Be patient and enjoy the wonderfully creative efforts that are being explored. If you believe that the future is electric, invest time or money in it. I am. If you think it nonsense then sit back and watch.

  15. The only solution now is generating electricity onboard. Storing enough power will never be an option. The “wall outlet” for charging batteries is not green. There are fuel alternatives that greatly reduce CO2. The biggest improvement is when the world slows down and takes a deep breath before they think about instant relocation at the expense of the planet.

    • “The only solution now is generating electricity onboard. Storing enough power will never be an option”

      WRONG!!!! (sometimes).

      For a flight across the Atlantic Ocean at Mach 0.75… you gotta burn JET FUEL!
      For a flight across LA in 5 minutes to hop over traffic… on-board batteries are just on the ragged edge of being fine, and improving at about 8% per year!
      What about a 1-hour training flight? Pipistrel has ALREADY proven you wrong.

      So saying “using batteries will NEVER be an option” is a half-truth… it depends on the mission!

      • One problem is that the AOCs of the world MAKE that instant leap from Urban Air Mobility, to ocean-crossing airliners. She promises a world in which passenger air travel will be ELIMINATED in ten years.
        One bigger problem is that millions of people are stupid and ignorant enough to believe her. And they want to shove their faith-based beliefs into one or more of my body orifices.

      • Sorry for the misunderstanding. We have eliminated the heavy battery packs for flight. The generating system offers more safe current than adding packs. This can ellinate more than 75% of the weight. We do recommend a small backup pack for security if needed.

        • I do not see how dragging around spare fuel and a spare engine and a generator and inverter and controller will eliminate weight (or increase safety). Airplanes usually operate at very high power settings so I would assume that “hybrids” work out to actually be less efficient on flights.

  16. I like the common sense of the author. It seems that in our current, non-critical thinking society, if some of us don’t believe that EVERYTHING we own should be converted to electric power, we are shamed and ridiculed as failing to see the future. Interestingly, the electric wire trolley was swapped out for the internal combustion engine bus and automobile. The round wheel is still used on almost everything that rolls, including cars, aircraft tires and bicycles. Common sense is lacking right now in our society. 😉

  17. Climate change is a real problem and our societies will need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions within a few decades to avoid very bad outcomes. That said, this will only happen if we focus on making reductions where they make the most engineering and financial sense. Let’s start with buildings, where most of the emissions reductions have negative costs, so you save money to emit less carbon. Then outlaw crypto currencies which require so much power to process that they rival air travel, and for what, exactly? Electric and hybrid vehicles for local transportation, fine. Aircraft are the last thing, perhaps rivaled by snow vehicles, for which it make sense to electrify. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting, but I agree with the author that the hype is completely misplaced. In lieu of flight shaming, I would rather see blockchain shaming, or TV left on and Air conditioning blasting with no one in the room shaming. We do so many stupid things with carbon emitting power, let’s focus on not doing those things!

    • The things you want to “shame” are so arbitrary, un-forceable, and biased that it is a joke.
      Ban crypto currency… but not some OTHER algorithm or waste that might also waste energy?
      That is biased and would only chip away at the problem through en-equal enforcement of energy-waste.
      Like saying you only want to ticket RED cars for speeding, cause darn you have seen some red cars go FAST!
      The only legit way to deal with this waste is through an energy tax (or carbon tax)… that applies equally to everyone.

      • “The only legit way to deal with this waste is through an energy tax”

        When the subsidies dry up, when electricity rates skyrockets because of the energy tax, when electric vehicles begin to pay their fair share of infrastructure taxes, when the few rare earth mineral mines are a monopoly business and can charge whatever they want; I’m not so sure that electric will have much luster at that soon-to-be reached point.

      • I take your point, but my list isn’t just arbitrary, it’s based on having studied cost effectiveness of emissions reduction. I singled out blockchain currencies because the emissions from that are huge (equivalent to a large city), invisible to the users, and arguably not essential to the economy. I brought up buildings because many analyses of cost-effectiveness of reducing emissions show that’s where the log-hanging fruit is. Basically aircraft are one of the last places to look to reduce emissions because they require high energy density. I can believe that for certain kinds of short haul operations, electricity could work, but float operators are usually going to remote places where there often isn’t power available.

  18. Keeping it civil as Paul requested, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, whether or not it bears any relation to reality. Whether you like it or not (and apparently Harbor Air does) the E-Beaver is reality, as are numerous other electric aircraft, as well as Rolls Royce’s E-Fan X project. The advantages of electric transportation in operating cost, noise reduction, smoothness and emissions are blindingly obvious. Seems to me Jason’s opinion piece might accidentally have been re-run from at least ten years ago. Reality has already overtaken it. A more apt title would be “Commonsense IS E-everything”.

    • This comment reminds me a of a Douglas Adams quote: “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

      That seems to generalize what we see here. Every, single, time an article about E-something hits AVweb. Those of you who have been regularly commenting over the years have provided wonderful stories, interesting historical anecdotes, engineering perspectives, aviation safety insights, etc. as long as the topic hasn’t gone against the natural order of things…

  19. “Rarely in history have so many people been triggered into instant and far-reaching action-ism and rarely ever did politicians get handed a larger pile of homework assignments..”

    Action-ism, so long as its someone else doing the acting.

    When PG&E shut down power during the California wildfires (a real-time example of what it would be like to immediately shut down fossil-fuel power plants)….folks couldn’t make it a few hours without complaint..much less a week. Never once heard anyone exclaim …”Huzzah, that’s XXXlbs less coal-fired carbon spewing into the air”

  20. Gas is an amazing low-cost power-dense energy source. Part of the low cost of course is the that oil is highly subsidized in the US.

    It will take a long time to get equivalent cost effective density from other sources. That said, batteries are getting better and better at efficiency. We’ll see how long it will take to compete with gas. In the mean time, some of your questions do have answers.

    (1) Where do we get the lithium for these batteries and at what environmental and human expense?

    This is been painstankely documented in the Electric Cars debate. Keep in mind, there is currently only 2% lithium in Li-Ion batteries. It is mined in the so called Lithium Triangle (Australia, Chile and Argentina). From wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium#Production

    “According to a 2011 study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, the currently estimated reserve base of lithium should not be a limiting factor for large-scale battery production for electric vehicles because an estimated 1 billion 40 kWh Li-based batteries could be built with current reserves[102] – about 10 kg of lithium per car.[103] Another 2011 study at the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Company found enough resources to support global demand until 2100, including the lithium required for the potential widespread transportation use.”

    Environment and human costs probably don’t differ that much from current oil extraction practices.

    (2) Can we shoot non-recyclable batteries into outer space, when we finally discover that they present a huge waste problem?

    Again, lithium batteries only contain about 2% Lithium. Because there are (other) more valuable minerals in LI-ion batteries they are cost effective to recycle. No need to hire SpaceX to launch em to space while they are worth more here! See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_recycling#Lithium_ion_batteries

    (3) Will we be capable of paying constantly increasing electricity bills, when energy companies completely switch off coal and nuclear powerplants and revert to water, wind and sunshine for the alternative? Green energy is rather expensive in Europe and prices are hiking quarterly.

    Energy for the US grid differs from state to state. See https://www.eia.gov/state/. Again, many would love to see all subsidies stop and each energy source compete on equal footing.

    Electric cars primarily charge at night when the electric grid is mostly unused. As electric vehicles gain popularity, the energy to process gasoline will gradually shift to charging electric vehicles as the demand shifts. This shift will occur slowly and the industry will adjust to meet the new demand. The rise of practical electric airplanes will take a while. There will be time to figure things out.

    Again, this is been much debated in the electric car forums.

    (4) Will temperatures fall measurably by banning gasoline and fossil-fuel burning engines from primarily personal transportation, while completely ignoring much larger environmental abuses?

    I would like to see sources of energy shift to include more renewable sources. No banning… The largest source of industrial emissions is the oil and gas industry. Remember, you need to include not just the production of oil and gas, but the transportation costs as well.

    (5) Where will we find work for millions of people displaced from their source of income when and if this E-hype continues?

    Ignoring the tone of the question… 🙂

    Here goes… any shift will take place over time, and workers will leave declining industries for other industries with more demand. I don’t think we’re looking for a totally green state, just a way to get more energy from renewable sources. One of the problems with a shift like this is that the oil industry has been so heavily subsidized for so long they are firmly intrenched and still get even more subsidies… We are addicted to artificially lowered oil prices…

    • Just to add a bit about the (un)employment picture.

      In 1870, half the US population was employed in agricultural work. Today it’s about 2%. So why isn’t the unemployment rate at 48%? Because new jobs came along that weren’t available, or even imagined, in 1870.

    • Thanks for this detailed response. One thing I would add is that since consumers of carbon fuels aren’t paying the costs that carbon pollution impose on society, we are all basically subsidizing carbon fuels. I completely agree that renewables should be on an even playing field. Doing that requires some mechanism to link the damage caused by carbon fuels to their consumption. The simplest path to that is a fossil carbon tax. But if one uses the term “tax,” opposition begins. I’d like to see a revenue neutral fossil carbon tax that would make non carbon power sources more competitive. There would probably need to be exceptions for activities in which there’s no effective substitute for fossil carbon fuels, which gets back to my original post. Float operators to remote locations in Alaska don’t need to be paying more for fuel…

  21. ”(4) Will temperatures fall measurably by banning gasoline and fossil-fuel burning engines from primarily personal transportation, while completely ignoring much larger environmental abuses?“

    Are you kidding me😱? This is the best winter we have had in years. I can’t remember a day when it’s gone below freezing for a full 24 period. This is a gift. I haven’t even attempted to hook up the the plow. Haven’t even had a marginal winter storm. Why the heck would anyone want to wreck this weather. As far as I’m concerned I want more of it. Burn more fossil fuel, not less. I haven’t seen a polar bear all winter and don’t want to.

    In years gone by it used to be snow that turned everything white, no more, now its salt. I don’t miss any of it. Go away and stay away forever. Long live global warming.

    • Well…you enjoy the lowest gasoline prices of all the OECD countries and the U.S. has always been in the bottom five. Electricity costs are in the lower third of OECD countries. Direct subsidies to the oil and gas industry total around $20B, on total revenues of about $180B. Indirect subsidies include tax breaks and loopholes.

      But as well all know, it’s low taxes not subsidies that make gas cheap in the U.S. That partially explains why I bent a rim on a lousy road in Texas, not Spain.

  22. I’d be the last person to “key” the paint on a Tesla (Yeah, it’s a thing) but I think in the end it will be economics and reliability that call the winners. Anyone who has stop-drilled a crack knows that vibration breaks things and an electric would run smoother. Just remember that your green halo doesn’t shine any brighter just because you moved your pollution from the tailpipe to the power plant and the battery factory.

  23. It appears that how people feel about climate change, the driver for electric powered transportation alternatives, is governed by “whose ox is getting gored”.

    There are a lot of learned aviation aficionados commenting on this blog, who have science to back up their position. However, its sort of like dealing with classic fuel injected Corvettes. There are more documented fuel injected classic Corvettes than were ever originally built by GM. Yet each one has documentation claiming to prove the provenance of that particular serial number.

    For those working in the sciences, each has scientific “proof” that their position is verifiable and accurate refuting, or maybe correcting someone else’s scientific “proof” as not accurate, or outright false. Within their respective position of science, that data, as applied in that particular area of science may be true. Outside of that experiment, it may not. Others without the scientific credentials and background, have their own opinions based on whatever scientific “proof” they believe supports their worldview as “proven” by someone else.

    I know very few folks truly looking for truth. The vast majority have a predisposition to just about everything. In their quest for “truth” they are actually looking for others who will verify their predisposition and resulting opinion. The added complication is most seem to think ( including many scientists) in a one-size-fits-all mindset, or equally dangerous, all or nothing attitude.

    What is a good business model for Harbor Air may not work for United. Harbor Air’s business model can make use of an E-powered Beaver. Just possibly, present technology will suffice for their needs profitably. But E power will not be viable for United flying a wide-body from the USA to Tokyo. Does that mean, the investment in better engines providing better fuel economy and less emissions is now invalid, useless, or not improving the emission footprint because those engines are not powered by lithium-ion batteries instead of Jet-A? The E Beaver and 787 with the latest engines are contributing to aviation transportation improvement within their respective spheres.

    One thing most often left out of urban mobility or mass transportation discussions is the reason for the idea in the first place. That is, too many people in one spot trying to go to another location equally crowded. Kobe Bryant and eight others lost their lives in part to the fact that while they were not stuck in ground-bound traffic, they did spend 15 minutes in a holding pattern because there were a bunch of other helicopters, with some containing equally well heeled folks, trying to occupy the same space at the same time in their quest for urban mobility, some going to the same destination airport. Too many people on the ground wanting to get across LA caused too many people to be in the air, creating an aerial traffic jam.

    There is no aircraft, VTOL or not, E powered or not, gas/Jet-A powered or not, or even fueled by ambient air powering an anti-gravity machine, that is going to solve going in a straight line from Point B to Point A in an already crowded airspace without creating an aerial version of rush hour. Without ATC traffic separation , there is so much traffic going from the USA to Asia or Europe there would be multiple aerial collisions from departure airports, in the middle of the worlds oceans, and all the way to the destination airports. Heathrow and JFK has inter-continental traffic just as frequent as O’Hare whose primary traffic is not international. Too many people in one location wanting to go to the same location elsewhere, whether its across town or across the ocean, causes too many airplanes in the air trying to occupy the same airspace at the same time without sophisticated air traffic control. Having any diversions from the most direct route is not climate friendly nor economically efficient.

    One of the most entertaining aspects of AirVenture for me is watching a mass arrival. One of the most tension filled flights is participating in a mass arrival. Now take that visual and apply it to a bunch of “Alices” or VTOLS around the LA Basin. Ya think a controller might be a little stressed in that scenario, especially with some being autonomous and not talking with them? Ya think those ecological clean machines skirting the system under, around, and between controlled airspace might look like 100 Bonanzas trying to land at the same time on 36R and 36L at Wittman field 15 minutes before the airport closes down? Can you imagine what the airspace between Rockford, IL and Wittman Field looked like on the radar screen with 116 Bonanzas and Barons all going in the same direction at the same time in a semi-loose formation? Under those kind of circumstances, electric flight and climate change will not be even on the proverbial radar screen. And why? Because, it depends on whose ox is gored.

    • The OBJECTIVE of ATC is separation, so let’s not conflate that end with some specific means. Future traffic separation will be both automated and distributed. In other words, aircraft will “work it out” with other aircraft that present an airspace-occupation conflict. Why?
      Because classic Air Traffic Control is not extensible to “Urban Aerial Mobility,” nor to a sky filled with literally millions of drones, large and small. And the FAA already has admitted that ADS-B is insufficient even to handle just the “surveillance” part of the task. Good. The first step of solving a problem, is acknowledging that you HAVE a problem.

  24. All I want to do is go from Cleveland to Marathon in the winter and Cleveland to anywhere else that is sparsely populated any other time of the year. I don’t especially like people and I abhor crowds. Going where there are a lot of people will never be a problem for me, only my wife.

  25. In 1976 I was flying radio controlled airplanes. Nitromethane engines. Not is a million years would anybody have said that while I was still alive most radio controlled airplanes would be electric. Not one single person.
    People riding on horses also said, “You gotta be kidding me! You mean you expect people to build roads all over the united states, and install a bunch of gasoline stations all over the U.S. and have trucks constantly filling these stations up… keep dreaming!!!” I’m keeping my horse!
    We need to make this happen just from the safety side of things. These Lycomings and Continentals are not nearly as reliable as most of you think they are. Electric motors are at least 10X more reliable.

  26. Agreed traffic separation will be automated and distributed…with each flying vehicle working it out between themselves. Imagine 25 of those robotic, round, autonomous vacuum cleaners working it out together cleaning your floor-space. While they worked out separations between themselves, the space they would occupy staying out of each others way would make the room unusable. But really clean.

    Likewise, at some point, the airspace becomes saturated with the direct route expanding wider and wider. While ecologically “green” as one’s ambient air powered, anti-gravity, VTOL, zero emissions, machine hovers along with the other equally “green” machines, autonomously staying out of each other’s way…its still gridlock, aerial style. With so many rooftops appearing as emergency landing pads as these “green” flying machines start to auto-land because they have no place to go with occupants doing the “potty dance”, one’s homeowner policy may have to include VTOL roof-damage inclusions. Traffic separation tasks in the present 0 to 400 foot agl airspace autonomously or otherwise will be an interesting sight. Should provide some interesting dialogue between homeowner and aviation making the current Van Nuys issues small change.

    Too many people trying to get across town or across the country creates gridlock, aerial or otherwise. The saturation point happens much sooner in the air than on the ground. I suppose one’s anti-gravity machine may be able to out climb the neighbor’s but then we have to solve airborne pressurization issues as one zooms to the flight levels and back down to get across town or the country. But hey, necessity is the mother of invention. Problem solved.

    • Sometimes it’s helpful to consider a “conflict-avoidance” process that’s been in widespread use for more than 30 years – printed circuit board (PCB) routing software. Trace directions are analogous to headings; layers are analogous to altitudes; via holes are analogous to changes-of-altitude; etc. But the analogy falls far short of alignment with traffic separation, in this critical sense: the traces don’t account for positional ephemerality in the temporal plane. They’re not representative of vehicles; they’re like vehicle con-trails. Aircraft don’t have to avoid con-trails; just the other vehicles. My point is that spatial-conflict-avoidance algorithms are every-day technology.

      While I think that Urban Air Mobility is a pipe dream (whether powered by Jet-A, batteries, or fairy farts), cooperative separation of autonomous vehicles can be achieved without resorting to Flight-Levels variance of altitudes. Wake vortex and rotor-wash considerations aside, a couple of hundred feet of vertical separation will do the trick.

      Of course, as the urban swarm of people/box -movers approaches that of a mosquito cloud at a cookout, the result slows to a near-hover-fest. Not quite 3D gridlock, but slow enough to make you question why you didn’t walk.

      But removed from this urban cloud of whirling dervish, negotiated separation-conflict-avoidance technology will work better – at scale – than our legacy ATC paradigm ever could, at its most optimum implementation.

    • I brought that issue up above, Jim. So our e-Everything machines have to keep us warm or cool, run scads of glass panels and radios, pressurize the aluminum tube, run the galley and lavs, and still provide for propulsion and control. Maybe Gary B is right … a RAT is the answer. Just deploy it and it’ll recharge the batteries in flight ala perpetual motion machine.

    • My RAT comment was only meant as a reply to how the avionics electrical system could be separated from the electrical system powering an electric motor. This is much the same way that an alternator borrows some energy from a gas-powered engine to run the avionics now. Obviously it couldn’t be used to recharge an electric propulsion system.

        • You already have to “add to the propulsion fuel” to overcome the parasitic engine drag of an alternator. But this misses the point of my comment anyway, which was that an electric propulsion system need not be coupled to the avionics electrical system. You could also just add additional batteries specifically for the avionics. Or an alternator. Or maybe a fuel cell. The point being, using the argument that an electric powered aircraft means an electrical fault takes out both the engine and the avionics and anything else powered by electricity simultaneously is misguided. There are ways to make things redundant (otherwise the whole push to get rid of the vacuum system and replace with all digital, electrical equipment is misguided).

  27. Common Sense vs. E-Everything

    Austin Meyer here from Laminar Research. I wrote the flight simulator X-Plane and I am currently using it to evaluate a number of eVTOL aircraft, including several that I am consulting or otherwise working on.

    Jason Baker recently wrote a blog here titled “Common Sense vs. E-Everything” In this blog, Jason asked five questions, each of which I shall now answer.

    1: Where do we get the lithium for these batteries and at what environmental and human expense?

    Answer: From the ground and at the expense of digging. There may be barriers to electric airplanes, but lack of lithium isn’t one of them.

    2: Can we shoot non-recyclable batteries into outer space?

    Yes, we can shoot many things into space. Including cars. For fun. But it’s smarter to employ used batteries on the ground to stabilize the power grid during swings in supply and demand. This is called leveling the grid. The lively secondary market for batteries awaits only sufficient volume of used cells.

    3: Will we be capable of paying constantly increasing electricity bills?

    That depends. Do you pay more than $3 per hour for fuel for your airplane? Because that’s the electricity cost of a Pipistrel Electro. Compare that to fossil fuels. Which is cheaper?

    4: Will temperatures fall measurably by banning gasoline and fossil-fuel burning engines from primarily personal transportation, while completely ignoring much larger environmental abuses?

    Yes, and who said anything about ignoring other problems?

    5: Where will we find work for millions of people displaced from their source of income when and if this E-hype continues?

    It’s not hype if it actually displaces millions of jobs, is it? And to answer the question, the jobs will obviously be found in the new electric industry.

    So Jason’s questions all have blatantly obvious answers, but now let’s look at what REALLY matters for electric aviation.

    We’ll start with the most critical and limiting factor: The batteries. Batteries store far less energy per pound than jet fuel, and this limits endurance and range compared to fossil fuels… BUT is battery energy density good enough to get a transportation job done?

    Tesla has already proven that batteries are good enough for ground transportation. They’ve proven it 900,000 times and counting, in fact.

    So that’s fine for DRIVING, but what about the power-intensive world of aviation?

    Let’s look at what the batteries talk to when it’s time to spin a prop: Electric motors. As it turns out, electric motors unlock certain secret weapons that Lycomings, Continentals and Pratts have never given us… and THESE are the secret weapons that will help unlock the next level of aviation.

    Secret weapon #1: Instant torque. As every Tesla driver—and countless fossil-burners looking at their tail-lights in a drag race—have discovered, electric motors give torque instantly. Helicopters are dogged by their complex, expensive, maintenance-intensive cyclic, collective and anti-torque systems. But drones with e-motors can change their rotor spin so quickly with instant torque that their simple one-piece plastic props can both stabilize and maneuver the craft. Complexity and cost are slashed. I’m currently involved in a flight test program that has tested this in hovering and forward flight on a manned eVTOL that weighs 3,600 pounds… with nothing but one-piece, fixed-pitch props. So this effect is now proven valid up to the weight of a Cirrus SR-22.

    Secret weapon #2: 95 percent efficiency. At best, gas-burners run at about 33 percent thermodynamic efficiency, turning only a third of their fossil-fuel energy into power. Electric drive systems, though, run at about 95 percent efficiency, delivering three times the energy to the prop for each unit of energy consumed. This effectively triples the energy on board compared to any gas-burning engine. The gas-burner energy advantage just got cut by a factor of three.

    Secret weapon #3: Silence. If you just operate close to the ground only within airport bounds, then the noise of an airplane can usually get a grudging pass from the community: Your noise is largely limited to the airport area. But what if we wanted to fly from the airport to the middle of downtown? Suddenly, the engine and prop noise would be a deal-breaker. Electric motors solve this problem for engine noise, and with proper sizing or gearing, can turn a prop slowly enough to hugely reduce the prop noise as well.

    Secret weapon #4: Zero emissions. An obvious benefit for everyone near the airplane… and if that energy comes from a grid fed by solar, wind, or nuclear power, then it’s a benefit for everyone. This is a requirement for community and public acceptance, as it should be.

    Bonus secret weapon: Rapidly-improving battery technology.

    A gallon of 100LL will be the same next year as it was in 1950.

    Batteries, however, have demonstrated that they can carry an airplane about 100 miles (airplanes under construction now may double that) with energy density improving at about 7 percent per year.

    This is a race fossil fuels can only lose and here’s how fast they’ll lose it: Take 100 or 200 nautical miles and compound it at 7 percent interest. As that number grows over time, it will displace fossil-fuel airplanes for FLIGHT MISSIONS OF THAT RANGE OR LESS. This point has already been passed for almost all uses of cars… my wife’s Tesla goes 390 miles on a charge, much further than 100% our families’ ground-based missions.

    So, we have a propulsion system with a quartet of new characteristics and a steady upwards push in battery capability. The REAL question is: Where can that take us?

    With a motor that provides instant torque, we have vertical takeoff and landing flight with almost no moving parts, allowing affordable access to… everywhere.

    With a motor running at 95% efficiency, we turn almost all of our energy into power-at-the prop: Not noise and heat.

    With a motor that makes little noise and no pollution, we have an aircraft that will have public acceptance at more places than just… airports.

    So we have a powertrain that enables affordable, quiet, zero-emissions, politically acceptable three-dimensional access to almost any location within an (initially short) radius that increases by about 7 percent per year.

    Will a new market be unlocked by that capability?

    Is there a new market that is enabled by affordable, efficient, quiet, zero-emissions, AIRPORT-INDEPENDENT, short-range, three-dimensional, travel above traffic?

    You see, the electric airplane doesn’t HAVE to weight a million pounds and hurtle across the Atlantic Ocean at Mach 0.85 to work…. it just has to get you from LaGuardia to Central park in 5 minutes.

    And it will.

    And then it will do more… about 7% more each year.